Mastering the Faith

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Teaching it old school...Today, my son got his report card from our online school. Most of us are used to an “A-F” grading system, but this school used “M” for mastery as their highest grade. Included in the idea of mastery is that he fully understood the topics at hand and worked at them until perfect (or very close). A student couldn’t move on to the next course until he mastered the previous one.

We completed the basic requirements plus a little bit more, so my son got straight M’s. Sounds like a hum, I guess—”Mmmmm….” A happy sound, for sure.

Can you imagine what our Christian education in our churches would look like if we taught the Christian faith to mastery?

Actually, I can. And I don’t understand why we don’t teach the principles of the faith that way.

I graduated from Wheaton College in 1992 with a degree in Christian Education. My profs were some of the smartest and most innovative guys to tackle that subject who ever walked the face of the planet, but we never talked about teaching the faith to mastery.

I believe part of the problem comes from an unwritten rule in too many of our churches that we can’t make people hew to a certain standard against their wills. Nor do we want to make distinctions between successful disciples and unsuccessful ones. In some ways, Christian education in American churches resembles a politically-correct version of Little League, where—despite how many runs one team scores—every game is played to a tie and everyone wins.

But that’s a lie. Unfortunately, we believe it to the core of our educational processes in the American Church and its damning all of us to a lowest common denominator belief. Any off-handed perusal of any of the Barna Group’s stats on discipleship and belief in this country should show us how corroded simple knowledge of the Faith has become.

It didn’t used to be that way, though. A couple hundred years ago, even the rankest sinner in a church could give you an acceptable outline of the tenets of Christianity. Most people could recite a basic systematic theology, even if they weren’t regular attenders.

Contrast this with today. I once offered to teach a basic theology course (though I was told I couldn’t use the word theology in the course title—too off-putting, too high and mighty) at a large, fast-growing church I attended. The class was one of about a half-dozen offered on Wednesday night.

Though new converts comprised a healthy portion of the church, only five people attended my class. The vast, vast majority went to the associate pastor’s teaching on how to maximize the power of the Holy Spirit in one’s life. Me, I started off with more elementary teachings like “Who is God? What is He like?”

So we tramped through ten weeks of courses about the basic tenets of Christianity, and though all the students came up to me after class and told me how much they appreciated learning the basics and my gentle way of teaching them, I finished that course with one student left. The others had drifted into the “Walking in the Power of the Holy Spirit” class.

As the last class ended, I remarked to my lone remaining student that I’d not seen her in church before. That’s when she told me she didn’t even attend this church. She went to another church nearby. She’d visited once, saw the class offered, and thought it a good idea.

Great for her, but I’ll tell you, I was beating my breast when she walked out of the classroom.

I look back at that class and I see the microcosm of the problem. We’ve got nothing in place to teach to mastery. We encourage people to jump into topics they can’t handle because we “sexy” up those teachings. It’s the age old story of handing someone a Bible and them saying, “Cool. When are we going to study Revelation? All that Armageddon stuff rocks!”

Is it any wonder that people aren’t growing in our churches? How can they when there’s no comprehensive, cradle-to-grave educational strategy? (What church anymore even has a Christian Education Director?) We can’t begin to talk about mastery because we can’t get the basics into people in a coherent fashion.

In many churches, the bulk of educating adults falls on small groups. I’ve written on this before, but small groups are a terrible way to educate adults. They can be fantastic for relationship building, group worship, and group prayer, but they’re lousy for actually instilling the principles of Christ’s teachings. Most small group leaders themselves can’t articulate a systematic theology, so how can they teach one? This leaves the most educated teachers in the churches, the pastors, out of the educational equation because they’re typically teaching “Gospel-lite” in the Sunday messages so as not to put off the “Seekers.” That’s totally backward.

Before we can begin to teach the tenets of Christianity in our churches, we need to rectify this lack and put a comprehensive educational strategy in place. We need to

  • Identify gifted teachers in our churches.
  • Ensure those teachers know the Faith enough to teach it. (Pastors, this is your primary audience for teaching, your identified teachers within the congregation.)
  • Create a cradle-to-grave educational strategy that teaches an age-appropriate overview of Christianity’s principles “from milk to meat.”
  • Weekly teach that strategy so that all ages within the church receive the same basic teaching. This allows parents to know what their children learned because they received the same age-appropriate teaching.
  • Teach to mastery. People don’t move onto the next class unless they can show mastery of the material. This method may mean that primary teaching occurs in classes rather than from the sermon messages, but it ensures people get the basics before they move on. And yes, people will need to prove they know and practice the material.
  • Stress that everyone in the church must participate in the classes as part of his or her membership/affiliation with the church. No one opts out if they wish to receive the benefits of the church Body as a whole. This expectation must be hammered home till it sinks into every person who crosses the threshold of the church building.

Let’s also understand that mere academics and head knowledge aren’t going to cut it. People must be able to combine knowledge with praxis if they’re to prove themselves able disciples.

One of the most intriguing trends in seminaries is the idea that academics cannot trump servanthood. I believe this is a sea change concept that bodes well for the Church in the future. Honestly, what good is a pastor or bishop who may be able to parse every Greek verb known, but who can’t (or won’t) wash the feet of the folks he’s called to serve? So the pastoral intern can tell you the finer points of distinction between infralapsarianism and supralapsarianism, but doesn’t that all go out the window if he has a basic contempt for those who don’t?

Some seminaries now require that their students participate in programs geared to evaluating a student’ s ability to serve humbly. Group living practices that serve as testing communities emphasize this new desire to turn out men and women who not only know the material, but live it day in and day out. Kudos for those seminaries who get it! They understand that mastery means developing servants, not academicians.

The final cog in the mastery machine may prove the most difficult to implement, but we must.

No true mastery of the faith exists apart from committed community. Examples of how to live like Christ absolutely require that we be intimately involved in each other’s lives. For growing in Christ must mean that we see each other growing, that we meet together more than one or two days a week, that we see learning as surrounding ourselves with those who get it and live it. It means those with the most finely honed minds and spirits find ways to break the Church out of the hellish culture we’ve wrapped ourselves in, the culture that separates us rather than binds us together. That means rethinking how we work, play, and live in a way that makes community a priority. There can be no shortcuts around community if we wish to achieve mastery.

Jesus is our Master. If we are to be like Him, shouldn’t we be methodically growing into His fullness? How will we if we don’t teach to mastery?

39 thoughts on “Mastering the Faith

    • QN,

      ACK! The sad fact is that I know that difference and have harped on it elsewhere. That I committed the error myself should be cause for professional suicide. :-O

      But I left the rope in the drawer and just fixed the problem. Thanks!

      That’s what I get for writing after midnight.

  1. David Riggins

    How do we “prove” mastery of the various tenets of our faith? A written test seems simplistic, and frankly, I could ace a test and not “know” the subject.

    • David,

      When I was in confirmation classes in the Lutheran church, my classmates and I were grilled individually by the pastor on our knowledge of the basic tenets of the faith. As it should be!

      But we’ve gotten all mamby-pamby about that kind of stuff. In the not-so-distant past, that kind of testing was normal. If we set an expectation for it and continue to hammer it, folks will get used to it.

      One role that church leaders have jettisoned unwisely is to be responsible for grooming the next generation of leadership by identifying them and raising them up to lead. I firmly believe that a church that has to grab its leadership from outside their own church body fails the discipleship test. They’ve got more serious problems than being short pastoral staff!

      Ideally we would not have to go the organized testing route. We would live in community in such a way that teachers would know if their students knew and lived the teachings. Proof of learning also comes in being able to put what is learned into practice. On both counts, I believe that’s the way it should be.

      Now what will it take to get there?

  2. Chad Adams

    I agree and disagree at the same time 🙂

    Is the goal to produce mature christians, or is the goal to produce christians? Thankfully God in His grace doesn’t require mastery of us.

    I think that if teaching mastery as you’ve described it causes the attendance to drop (as it did in the class you taught), then what is the point as you are still not teaching mastery (no one showed up).

    Teaching mastery should be done, but not at the expense of reaching lost people.

    • Chad…. is the point of Sunday School/Chrsitian Education really to win the lost? Wouldn’t it then be called “Sinner Education”? As one of those “seekers” I desperately desire Christian teachers that are willing to take me into the depths of spiritual teaching… to feed me MEAT. I don’t know that I’m entirely ready for meat, but I crave it, I want to taste it and chew on it. But instead, since we’re so surrounded by milk-drinkers, I find myself swimming in milk.

      I want more! I want the class that might be open for just me, to feed me meat, even if all 5 other people quit the class. I want more!

      • Chad Adams

        Craving meat sometimes means you have to go find it your self instead of being fed it. That’s part of the difference in a mature christian and an immature christian. An immature christian needs to be fed milk, but a mature christian can go as deep into God’s word as they want.

        Again, I totally agree with the idea of teaching mastery. I’m just trying to point out that you have to do it along with feeding milk. It’s not an either/or scenario. We need both.

        • Chad,

          Maybe. Too many immature Protestant believers feed themselves and wind up going off the path. And most people are immature by early Church standards.

          Yes, a mature Christian can feed herself and benefit from that. She doesn’t spurn mature teaching from elsewhere, though.

          But most people in our churches today aren’t there. They need to be fed a comprehensive Christian worldview, but they don’t get that. I can tell you right now that when churches got rid of their paid Christian Education leaders, they stabbed their educational systems in the heart. You can directly trace the decline in Christian education in this country to the elimination (or transition into volunteers) of the Christian ed staff. And I’m not just saying that because I saw myself with no employment options in that field after graduating with my Christian Ed degree! Like everything, we thought we could pay our educators a pittance (or nothing at all) and still maintain a solid education pathway.

          Right! And I’ve got this bridge…

    • Is God looking for converts or disciples? Is God looking for professions of faith or possessions of faith? Is God looking for immature or mature believers?

      Evangelism is the beginning, not the end. The goal is maturity – Christlikeness (Ephesians 4). That is mastery – orthodoxy leading to orthopraxy.

    • Chad,

      I’ll come out and say it: the goal is to produce mature Christians. Mature Christians rise up to assume leadership. Mature Christians reproduce, not only leading others to Christ but discipling them to maturity.

      I also believe you’ve set up a false dichotomy of reaching the lost and discipling the faithful. I know that most people will tell you otherwise, but you don’t have to dumb down all your teachings in order to reach the lost. As I recently wrote (“Killing Him Softly“), our model for reaching the lost is broken, to the detriment of believers. Fix that and everything else falls into place and your question becomes moot.

      • Chad Adams

        I’m sorry to be posting hastily. I was trying to keep the comments short, but it’s making my ideas not come across correctly.

        In my original comment I said I agreed and disagreed. I posted the disagreement. The agreement part goes like this:

        My family and I recently watched the movie Cars, in one part of the movie Lightening McQueen doesn’t go into the pits to get tires and the announcer says that most of the time he’d consider that a short term gain for a long term loss. That’s how I view the “dumb down” teaching you’re talking about. It is a short term gain for a long term loss. Someone has to be “fruitful” and it is going to be the christlike christians…not necessarily the ones who know the most, but the ones who live out what the do know the best.

        I go to a church now that has a lot of “new believers”. I’ve never been in a church before that has more christlike people. Some people are immature in their knowledge, but they are genuine and pure in their motives. I’ve been in churches that had some great discipleship programs, but they baptized 10 people a year. It felt like the focus on discipleship was turning people into Pharisees. They had great head knowledge but little evidence of living it out.

        • Chad,

          We don’t see discipleship as a sixty year plan, yet that’s what it is in the lives of most people. Most Christians are Christians before the age of 21, so they’ve got decades of discipleship ahead of them. So why are our teaching strategies so expedient?

          As to your noting what you have about Christlikeness in your church, let me very gently say that you might be seeing another dichotomy here.

          We’ve developed this schism between knowledge of the Faith and practice of the Faith. I would contend that what you’re seeing now, in contrast to the head knowledge people at your previous church, are the practice people. They seem totally different because they’re practicing what they know.

          But that is not all of it. Maturity demands a synergy of practice AND knowledge. I went from a knowledge church to a practice church and was blown away. But then I saw that the practice church rarely grew anyone into maturity because it neglected the knowledge portion of the equation.

          WE MUST HAVE BOTH to be mature believers. The pendulum swings in the Church, though, cause us to lurch from one side to the other all the time. We go from knowledge to practice and vice versa (usually when a new leader comes on board), but that’s wrong. We have to teach both knowledge AND practice, then live both out.

        • David Riggins

          My experience is that new believers put to work too soon turn into burned-out ex-church-goers. There needs to be a balance of faith put into action, undergirded by knowledge. Most churches sway one way or another; being activist leading to social gospel, or being disciple-based, leading to stuffed shirts.

          They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and it doesn’t take much to misdirect people. It is vitally important that our motivations spring from a clear understanding of Who Christ Is, what His work was, and the attitude with which He undertook His work. Even Paul took off three years in order to become educated.

          With increasing knowledge must come increased expectations. I think this is an area in which the church today fails miserably. We expect things of the wrong people, and don’t expect things from those who should be at the forefront of the battle. I can’t see signing up a new believer to a committee to lead youth ministry, but that is what often happens in order to “get them involved.” I also have a hard time with the ‘oldest’ believers in the body being given a free ride because “they’ve done their time.” Children normally don’t look after parents, but that is often how our churches operate.

          And Christians, short of death, never retire.

          • David,

            I was once part of a church whose idea of drafting people into work was “Ready, Fire, Aim,” as hopeless a leadership idea as is possible in the Church. I understand that sometimes things stall in committee, but to think we’re doing our best job by tossing people into important roles just to see if they’ll grow into the job? Ouch! That church told me repeated times it could not use my help in building an education program because they wanted to let people who had never done it before get their feet wet.

            Talk about spurning gifts, talents, and education!!

  3. I agree with your thesis – we must teach to mastery. How we do that is a much more complicated topic. You provoked my thinking in a number of areas. You have some radical ideas – I love that kind of thinking! Implementation is not as easy, but we have to start with some new perspectives. So thanks for getting the ball rolling.

    You said a number of great things! The following two quotes were the ones I “AMEN” the most.

    “small groups are a terrible way to educate adults. They can be fantastic for relationship building, group worship, and group prayer, but they’re lousy for actually instilling the principles of Christ’s teachings.”

    “Ensure those teachers know the Faith enough to teach it. (Pastors, this is your primary audience for teaching, your identified teachers within the congregation.)”

    • Don,

      I have a lot of radical ideas!

      I think the primary role of the youth pastor is not to directly work with youth, but with their parents! The best youth minister would work himself out of a job wrangling youth and instead teach their parents how to instruct them in the faith. (I could go on in this topic forever, but I’ll leave it at that.)

      I firmly believe with all my heart that churches MUST teach a unified, age-appropriate curriculum. Our churches split families up the second they hit the threshold. The only way to bring them back together is to teach a unified curricula so when they join up later, everyone knows what everyone else learned that day and can discuss it.

      Between the youth pastor’s isolating work and the educational divorce that afflicts families on Sunday, parents have almost no control over what their kids are learning of the faith. They fall into a learned helplessness that practically forces them to abandon Christian education in the home because it doesn’t align with what their kids are getting at church! What a travesty!

        • Don,

          I proposed those ideas more than fifteen years ago when I was at Wheaton and everyone thought I was nuts. I wrote papers on those ideas and everyone thought I was some sort of crazed radical, even my profs (who were usually forward-thinking guys).

          As for youth ministry, even though you’ll have a handful of good kids in every church who will say differently, the facts are in: it’s a dismal failure and getting worse. Eighty percent of kids who go into college as blazing-hot Christians abandon the Faith by the time they graduate. Something’s wrong then. That kind of capitulation tells me that what we thought was blazing-hot wasn’t. (I somehow got through college with my faith intact, in fact I got blazing-hot in my Sophomore year because of IVCF.)

          But I worked in youth ministry and I saw all the carcasses, far more dead bodies in that war than should be happening. Heck, practically every youth worker I’ve ever met paid a horrible price in his or her personal life because of the horrid youth ministry model we endorse in our churches. Yet no one stood back and said, “Hey, this isn’t worth it.” To do so sounds cowardly, as if you don’t care about the kids. But that’s false guilt for being asked to support a broken model.

          • I worked with the youth at my former church for nearly four years, from the time I became a Christian at age 24 to this past April, and I have to agree that the current model of youth ministry is failing dismally. I personally think its for three reasons:

            1. The parents are not involved, and not responsible. They have no idea what goes on, and it basically becomes a “get the kid out of the house time”. Parents need to ENGAGE with their kids and the youth pastor.

            2. The materials used to teach the youth are sub-par and outdated. I looked at several different curricula before deciding to come up with my own (approved by my Youth Pastor) when I taught Sunday School to our High Schoolers. The vast majority of material is not at all relevant to their lives. The Gospel of Jesus Christ and His Word don’t change, but our delivery of them sometimes has to. A lesson on what the Ten Commandments are for high schoolers isn’t going to have much of an impact unless you teach them WHY its important.

            3. We (parents, youth pastors, and volunteers) aren’t challenging our young people. Of course, this point goes back to the entire focus of this blog posting.

            I think that the thoughts and solutions offered here for the adults will fit young people just fine. My $.02.

            • Todd,

              Billy Graham said the one thing our youth need today is a challenge. My generation was not challenged. I pray enough prophets come forward to challenge today’s youth to go beyond their comfort zones and to seek out the narrowest of narrow ways, a way that runs counterculture and defies the rampant materialism that is crippling our culture.

  4. I lead a small group at our church and it is sometimes frustrating when there are people who aren’t interested in a Biblical topic, but would jump all over something that Oprah would cover. We have to have a basic knowledge of who God is and what our purpose here on Earth is.

    I agree with the concept of what you are saying, but don’t agree totally with the implementation.

    Stress that everyone in the church must participate in the classes as part of his or her membership/affiliation with the church.

    To me this puts more emphasis on the church than on God. Yes, they must learn about God in order to fulfill this, but then it can become book-learning drudgery. There is a experiential side to faith that must be explored as well, which is where the home/small groups really do work. We need to see God working in other people as well as ourselves, and the small groups help create an intimacy between people that allows them to share what God does for them personally.

    Just my thoughts. Another great article.

    • Clay, et al.,

      Mature teachers must set the curricula, not the students. A student doesn’t know what he doesn’t know! He needs a dedicated teacher to find his lacks and teach to them. That’s the primary role of the teacher: wisely fill in the blanks. Most Christians can’t do that for themselves. That’s why God in His wisdom created the Church!

      American Express used to have the ad slogan of “Membership has its privileges.” I firmly believe that’s true of the Church, too. The Church has certain benefits to the people who are consistently a part of it. David Fitch in his book The Great Giveaway goes so far to say that certain benevolences given out by the Church must have strings attached. You want us to help you out of your debt situation? Then we need to see you at every gathering of this church to know you’re serious about resolving the problem with our help. We’re about changing people’s lives and that’s only accomplished within the household of faith. Bravo! That’s the way it should be. In Acts, you can bet that those widows and orphans who were receiving food and shelter were expected to be part of the Church!

      As to “book-learning drudgery,” I say, “Tough.” Some things you have to know and if it takes some work, it takes some work. I don’t believe all teaching needs to be drudgery, though. Good teachers find ways to enliven well-worn topics. Still, we let people off when we cave to their constant need to be entertained. Maturity comes with a price tag. We have to sell it as worth it so that people want to have it. But we simply don’t do that in the American Church.

      Dang! What we’re supposed to know and do should put us in jeopardy for our lives! That’s what the Bible teaches. Have we all counted the cost and said, “Nah! Too tough,” or are we committed to Christ? If so, growing to maturity is part of that package, no matter what we have to go through to get there.

      • Don’t get me wrong about teaching topics. I don’t care what people WANT to be taught. I intend to teach what God wants me to teach every week. However, I can only spread the seed. The person must be receptive and then the Holy Spirit takes it from there. Right now God is leading me towards a study of Ephesians in the fall, so that’s what were doing.

        I’m not one to worry about how hard something is. I finished my Bachelor’s degree while working full time with two kids at home. I’m about to finish my Master’s degree with two kids in various activities, while being quite involved in our church and planning to adopt another child. Work is supposed to be hard, that’s why it’s called work. If it were easy, it would be called play. People find I don’t have much sympathy when they tell me how they were too busy to do weekly activities. We’re all busy and we make time for what we deem is important.

        I’m of mixed feelings about the quote you included from David Fitch. Jesus doesn’t require us to be at church every week in order to be saved, yet we would use a rule such as this to bless other people? I agree with you, but a part of me doesn’t like it. It’s possible I’m not thinking it through enough. Fitch’s book sounds interesting. I may have to pick that one up.

  5. Dan, I couldn’t agree more with your comment about small adult groups. The churches that I have attended have tried them two ways. One with a “layman” teaching. Terrible. One with the pastor doing a teaching by disc. Double terrible.

    If the American church would jettison its corporation structure, we might see more of what you are talking about.

    • Peter,

      I was part of a church where the pastors let people know they were trying to attract seekers on the weekends. Believers were supposed to get their meat from the small groups. An unmitigated disaster.

      Small groups are great for fellowship, but as the primary source of teaching? No way.

      I’m part of two small groups. One functions almost like a house church. We’ve never been able to get the teaching aspect down. Never. It’s a great group, though. The other group actually has our pastor and his wife in it. I think most people would say that group exists for fellowship more than the discussions we have. I think none of us look at the discussion time as real teaching, even the pastor. It’s more sharing than anything else.

    • francisco

      maybe you should do a series of things that can be done in Small groups, beggining with teaching people humility and joy in Christ….my two cents!

  6. Dan,
    It seems like you stepped into it with this one, but then, that’s what makes you interesting to read!
    A couple of questions:
    1) Do you feel that “mature” Christians are not cut out of the same cloth enough today? Your post and comments lead me wonder if what you are seeking is a more uniform look to Christianity, not just “mastery”. I’m probably way off the mark, but I wonder.

    2) How, beside small groups (which you don’t see as solving the discipleship/mastery problem), can the spread out community of believers that is the local church in modern America build transparent community? BTW, I think you are right about the benefits of closer community.

    • SLW,

      As to your first question, Tozer once wrote that pianos tuned to the same tuning fork will be in tune with each other. I agree. But whether they all play the same song, that’s a different issue. Everyone has different gifts, talents, experiences, and insights. That’s why we have a Body of Christ. So no, I’m not talking about uniformity in each person.

      I am hoping that our basis of teaching will be more uniform. Every person in a church should have a consistent worldview from one person to the next. One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism, right? But even that allows for a wide latitude in everything else.

      To the second question, I believe we Christians need a radical revision of our understanding of work and community. I believe we need to return a portion of our Christian community to the land, first of all. We must be able to sustain our food needs. I believe that a half dozen or so families within a church can band together to buy land and then build houses on that land. A common building can be erected and a portion of the incomes of the families be dedicated to the community and its common causes. One or two of the families can farm land. Together, they build a buffer system to sustain themselves should times get tough.

      In lieu of that, Christ gave us a mandate to evangelize our neighbors. The ideas in Randy Frazee’s book The Connecting Church can work here.

      I believe that something must be done about how we work. When breadwinners in a household spend on average twelve hours a day outside the home working, that’s simply corrosive to community. I also believe we need to find ways to offer alternative work so that Christians can work closer to home and beside each other. Amish and Mennonite communities stress local economies where the community works side-by-side every day. That’s exceptionally powerful.

      This generation may never see that kind of community, but I hope that this generation starts dialog on these issues so the next generation will have some solutions in place.

      For more on this, check out the “Work” category in the sidebar. I’ve written on this extensively.

  7. Diane Roberts

    I have only been in one church (out of about 12) that offered any course for new Christians. Frankly, I understand why Christians are having so much trouble in their life–there is no follow up by the church. Fortunately I was discipled in a systematic way by Campus Crusade for Christ when I became a Christian in college. I’m not sure I would have made it if I had just gone to the typical evangelical church.

    Good news on the horizon though. More and more churches are beginning to offer intergenerational courses instead of insisting that “all marrieds in their 30’s must be together; singles must be together; ex-motorcycle gang members must be together, etc. ” These churches are instituting CHristianity 101, 102, 103 and so forth for new Christians on level 1. Then on to level two–Christianity 202, 203, etc.; the next level would be Christianity 301,302, etc. and so forth. I am on my church’s Adult Education committee and we are going to go into that within our Sunday School classes. In fact I have been assigned to write the outline curriculum to answer the question our committee has now answered-“What should an adult know after attending our church for five years?”

    • Wow, Diane, that sounds great. Your outline sounds like quite a challenge, too. What must an adult know after five years in a church? Excellent question. I hope you blog out the answer for the rest of us!

    • francisco

      May I suggest one reason why in many churches (SS, EC, etc) we are not taught beyond the basics: FEAR of man. Yes, how would a teacher deal with someone who throws a question that you may not be able to answer? Perhaps, we think teachers are supposed to answer every single question! I heard once Voodie Baucham say this (look at the last annual DG conference for this talk) that a student once asked him a question (to kind of trip him) and Voodie said that he was not going to answer until he does not ask correctly. The student replied: “it is my question, I ask it the way I want” or something like that….did you see why sometimes the teacher should not answer some questions? Pride. That young man only wanted to have his question answered. But his heart’s attitude was not proper. Here I agree with Schaeffer who said he will give “honest answers to honest questions”. Now, don’t get me wrong. Humility doesn’t mean to put duct tape in your mouth. I believe is rather to preach the gospel in season and out of season, helping believers to understand that all Scripture points to Christ. He has supremacy over all things. And in our teaching people don’t see Christ but rather ourselves or feel cool that now they understand a nitty-gritty aspect of Christian doctrine without stirring up holy affections for Christ, then maybe we are not doing a good job in honoring the Savior. I want to say this with fear and trembling because those of us who teach will be judged with greater severity (James 3). Eternal matters are weighty because the supremacy of God in Christ and our joy in Him are at stake…

  8. Michael Richards

    I must say that I am quite curious and relieved by this post. First I am curious to know if anyone knows of a place where this method is actually being used.

    As I was reading this I realized that I almost always assume that the people I go to church with have a basic understanding of “theology” (if I may call it that). I have a fear though that most people don’t have a basic understanding of the gospel or even how to share it with another person.

    I was relieved by this post because it seems to teach the necessity for truth being taught in the church. I grow tired of value meal theology and Christian pop culture; the nonstop recycling of overused self help seminars. I suppose I have a desire to serve in a church that gets down to business to the get the job done instead of teaching how to live a more successful and happy life. Not that those are bad things I just have a difference of opinion of what it means to have a successful life.

    • Suzanne

      Amen! I grow tired of Christian pop culture masking the divine message in a cloud of “Look! We are just as cool, hip, and awesomely relevant as anyone else!” Since when did God need to be cool and hip to be relevant?

  9. francisco

    “Christian education is not an end in itself, because knowing is not an end in itself. We seek to know God so that we might be moved to hope in God. The aim of Christian education is stated in Psalm 78:5†“7: “God established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children, that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children so that they should set their hope in God.” The Bible does not present knowledge for its own sake, but rather for the kindling of faith and hope in God. As Romans 15:4 says, “Whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scripture we might have hope.” Education is not an end in itself.”

    –John Piper

    more at:
    http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/Sermons/ByScripture/14/309_Worship_Is_an_End_in_Itself/

  10. Cheryl

    Dan,
    Your comments are pretty classical if you attended a charasmatic church and got the reaction you got about teaching theology.

    Sound pentecostal scholarship is a HUGE problem. We need it desperately.!!! keep up the good work ! Parise the Lord you have a pastor who actually let you teach theology, they are rare IMP.

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